Trojans reflect on successful season

BY KYLE TROUTMAN ktroutman@cassville-democrat.com

In the summer of 2023, the Southwest boys basketball team declined to set any expectations.

Coming off its first district title in 57 years, the Trojans had lost half the team to graduation and had yet to find an identity.

By February this year, Southwest had exceeded any expectations they could have set, winning a second consecutive district title and posting a 22-7 record.

“We didn’t want to set any goals until we figured out who we were,” said Rusty Roe, Southwest boys basketball coach. “In the end, however, I would say we exceeded expectations for such an inexperienced varsity team. Winning both our conference and our district became a realistic goal somewhere around Christmas break.”

Roe said much of the success this season can be attributed to its seniors, Caleb Ayer, Charlie Pippin, Ezra Sprowes and Brendyn Paulsen, the fourth-ever All-State hoops player for the Trojans,.

“[These seniors] are some of the best teammates that I have had the opportunity to coach,” Roe said. “They have been completely bought in to us as a team and they were willing to accept whatever role we needed them to in order for us to succeed.”

The Conference Player of the Year, Paulsen averaged 18.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this year. He joins Jim Roller, TJ Marney and Skylar Knoll as All-State honorees from Southwest.

Another high honor went to junior Kasen Holder, named Second Team All-Region. Holder averaged 18.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Roe said Southwest thrived this season on controlling the ball and making good field goal attempts.

“Our on-the-ball defense was something that we continued working on each day as well as closing out on the ball,” he said.

The Trojans will take a similar tact into this offseason as last year, waiting until after summer to set any goals or expectations.

“We have several juniors that will have to move into different roles than this year,” Roe said. “They will be relied upon to fill in a huge gap of statistical loss created from our seniors graduating. Also, we have several freshmen this year that will need to contribute in playing time next season. They will need to gain some confidence throughout the coming summer.”

Until then, Southwest players are enjoying looking back on making the final 16 teams in Class 3.

“It’s hard to not go back to the moment when we won districts,” Roe said.

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